Air pollution levels will bounce back as COVID-19 restrictions loosen, scientists say

“COVID has made clear the health inequities that we face and I hope we can move towards a more fair and just society with less pollution”

Smog has cleared as people stay inside and factory production is halted, but it won’t last.

Air pollution has drastically decreased around the world as people stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as lockdown restrictions loosen and regular activity resumes, studies are showing not only that emissions will return, but also that greenhouse gas levels continue to increase and global temperatures are still on the rise.

At the beginning of local outbreaks, countries around the globe imposed restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Measures have included limiting travel, stopping factory production and mandating that people work remotely.

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By early March, satellites run by NASA and other space agencies started to observe dropping emissions over countries that had imposed restrictions. Specifically, satellites started to spot reduced levels of nitrogen dioxide, a compound that has been shown to negatively impact human health and is most often linked to fossil fuel emissions from vehicle and factory operations.

But how long will these decreasing emissions last? When our polluting activities return in force, will observed emission levels go back to “normal”?

Read more: Space